Grief in the Time of Covid-19

Posted by fiesty76 @fiesty76, Jun 26, 2020

My closest friend of decades died Tuesday but today is just like Tuesday last week or any other Tuesday two months ago for me.

She’d been comatose and unresponsive for over a week. I’d been praying for days for mercy from her pain and discomfort and that she would be surrounded and touched by loving hands and words.

When I was told just minutes following her death that she was finally at ease, my first response was an overwhelming relief that she was at peace.
My second was a grateful acknowledgement for being called and an offer to make calls to others if her precious guy desired.

Still midday when those brief calls were made, I hung up wondering what to do next. The announcement of her death to those I’d called were much like the brief updates I’d been sharing when others often called over the past months and weeks on her condition. Her death was peaceable and her guy was with her. What more need be said.

There were no others with whom I wanted to talk with at more length. My feelings were too personal and too deep to risk sharing. There were no tears. Only silence enveloped me in my aloneness since the COVID-19 isolation of early March.

Nor were any of the time honored rituals or usual actions one would take at the time of the death of a beloved available to me now.

I had not seen my friend in weeks. Although I’d continued to talk to her by phone, I had not heard her voice in many days.

Although I’d written to her and her beloved and checked on him by phone, I had not and still could not be with him physically to offer in person comfort. I couldn’t prepare a meal to take over as has been a first action in the past. Ordering a catered and delivered meal is a poor substitute at best.

The funeral plans they’d made a few years earlier are now being challenged and changed by my friend’s daughter. Final plans have not yet been announced. If a memorial is conducted in the cemetery chapel, I cannot attend.

This is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I have lost my friend to death and even prayed for her release from suffering. I’d been informed and had informed others by rote however, none of this news seems real. My days are no different from the many weeks leading up to now.

The pandemic has changed so much for all of us but for those who have lost someone to death and cannot gather to grieve or commemorate that person’s very unique loving, laughing, compassionate, generous ways, it is a time of surreal unreality.

I’m following the daily routine I’ve been following since March. I am cyber sharing in groups and with others as though nothing has changed. Yet everything for me and those who loved her has changed forever. Hopefully, this a temporary state of shock or of denial. However, I fear that grief will be prolonged because the usual ways of mourning are not available during this extraordinary time of pandemic. Yes, the pandemic will eventually pass and people will resume their daily lives more normally. However, I wonder if present circumstance will only make the reality of loss longer and more difficult with the passage of time.

I remind myself throughout each day as I take my routine neighborhood walks or prepare a meal or work in my yard or respond to another’s post that I’ll never again hear my best friend’s voice; I’ll not be able to turn to her for counsel or encouragement or just the joy of knowing that she always has my back regardless.

How am I supposed to feel now? How am I to grieve? What will make this event of passage real enough that I can mourn her loss, celebrate her life and begin to move forward in a meaningful way?

Thousands of others are experiencing the death of a loved one during this pandemic. Some are gathering through Zoom to participate in funerals or celebrations of life. Others, too, cannot come together or react in the usual time honored rituals of a beloved’s passing.

One source found on the internet revealed a link that might prove helpful to others. This link provides excerpts from a book: “Option B” and gives ideas on resiliency in crisis; hardship; support; self-compassion; post traumatic growth and taking back joy: https://optionb.org/bookexcerpt

What suggestions can others who have experienced something like this offer to those of us who are needing support but don’t know how to reach out for it?

@zep

@fiesty76 I am so sorry you have lost your dear friend, and are having to suffer through this loss in such an unsettling and trying time of chaos. She is gone now, but she was supremely fortunate to have had you as her friend throughout her life. Not everyone has that. Try to remember that your friendship was a loving gift that made a huge difference to her for her entire life, and that will never change.

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Thank you for your very caring and kind response, @zep. I will hang onto your words of comfort and appreciate them so much.

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@lioness

@fiesty76 I,m so sorry to hear of the passing of your dear friend.I was with my husband when he died.We had talked before of what he wanted so I carried out his wishes.Over and over I told him I
Loved him ,held his hand prayed for his relief . Cried silently Im so glad her guy was with her this will help him it did me in the weeks to come .It's been 20 years and I remember the good times at first I didn't it took me 9 months to feel better emotionaly you ever forget Dec 22 that's why I still don't celebrate Christmas .It will take you time but keep doing what you're doing 😊❣️ he will need you to get through the funeral.We are all here for you send me a p.m anytime

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Ah, @lioness, how wonderful that you could be with your husband when he died and that he could hear your words and know the clasp of your hand. What a great helpmate you had to have been to him because you continue helping others now that he isn't with you. Although the Hospice nurse had told me my sister would slip into a coma before she died, she was lucid and we talked much of the night before she died the following day. I continued talking after she went into the coma even though she became non responsive. Had heard that sound was the last to go. My friend's guy and I had a meaningful conversation by phone yesterday and I can only hope it helped him as much as it did me. He expressed some of the same feelings I'd shared in my post here, especially about the unreality of it all even though he'd been there with her. Thank you for your kind pm offer, too. Right now, I'm taking things moment to moment.

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@becsbuddy

@fiesty76 I am so sorry about the loss of your friend. You were so good for her and her partner and it won’t be forgotten. And you’ll have no regrets. Just take some nice walks and let nature heal you. Becky

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Thank you, @becsbuddy. The hardest moments for me have been not being able to be present with them both these last weeks. i know they understood but that inability was horrible. There was a light, cool breeze this morning as i made a short walk around the neighborhood and it felt soo good. Then out to finish digging up one of the raised veggie beds and adding more compost to the mix before watering the bed to let it "settle". Tomorrow the plan is to add veggie seeds and then start the trial of "patiently" waiting..that part is the hardest. Patience is not one of my top 5 … 10 traits??? Smiles Yes, nature truly can be a soothing healer.

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@lioness

@fiesty76 I,m so sorry to hear of the passing of your dear friend.I was with my husband when he died.We had talked before of what he wanted so I carried out his wishes.Over and over I told him I
Loved him ,held his hand prayed for his relief . Cried silently Im so glad her guy was with her this will help him it did me in the weeks to come .It's been 20 years and I remember the good times at first I didn't it took me 9 months to feel better emotionaly you ever forget Dec 22 that's why I still don't celebrate Christmas .It will take you time but keep doing what you're doing 😊❣️ he will need you to get through the funeral.We are all here for you send me a p.m anytime

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@fiesty76 I wanted to send some pictures of my garbage garden beets in one onion celery surprised but glad I also put 8n a sweet potato and reg potato that was a good idea 😊

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Exciting❣️A garbage garden

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@fiesty76

Ah, @lioness, how wonderful that you could be with your husband when he died and that he could hear your words and know the clasp of your hand. What a great helpmate you had to have been to him because you continue helping others now that he isn't with you. Although the Hospice nurse had told me my sister would slip into a coma before she died, she was lucid and we talked much of the night before she died the following day. I continued talking after she went into the coma even though she became non responsive. Had heard that sound was the last to go. My friend's guy and I had a meaningful conversation by phone yesterday and I can only hope it helped him as much as it did me. He expressed some of the same feelings I'd shared in my post here, especially about the unreality of it all even though he'd been there with her. Thank you for your kind pm offer, too. Right now, I'm taking things moment to moment.

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@fiesty76 Anytime . It will take time for you I lost some close friends and it is hard I know but be kind to yourself and glad you and her guy are there for each other . One thing that helped me too was that I would go to his grave to talk that helped a lot . You get to say things you didn't have time to when they are alive . Might help you also .

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@healthconscious

First of all let me offer you condolences in the loss of your friend, I have a very special minister friend that once told me "words on a page somehow and sometimes get loss in their meaning" and I find that sometimes true. It is hard to express one's true feelings and how they will be received by the person on the other end. However that said your writing was from the heart and so expressive and know that just by your writing you have already and will touch so many other people. Some people have the gift of expressive writing and you are one of those people.

I lost my sister, pre COVID, and we used to call each other and could talk for hours on the phone, when one day I called and my brother-in-law told me that she was not doing well that she was sleeping allot. That was last Spring and ever since that day we were not able to have a "real conversation", than after many doctors appointment, and because of HIPAA I was not able to truly find out what her real problem was, I had to sit back and just take in what others were telling me, and being a nurse that was so hard for me to experience. I felt that there was nothing that I could do. Fortunately I was able to see her before she died and she knew that I was there but as for a "real" conversation that was gone. I feel so blessed that this happened last year and not now as COVID has changed so many things for so many people.

What I hear you saying and forgive me if I am wrong is that I hear you struggling with how are you expected to grieve and mourn, this is all so out of our normal, and yes, for so many of us this is, whether it be the death of a loved one, or all of the changes that we are going through. We cannot conduct our lives like we used to, at least for some of us that want to and need to remain safe. I keep going back to Kubler Ross and the stages of grief, allow yourself to feel whatever it is that you are feeling now and in the future. Don't let anyone tell you how to grieve or how long to grieve, let herself go through all of the stages, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Please allow yourself to cry, allow yourself to feel whatever it is that you are feeling and don't feel like you have to be anything different. I hear you when you say "she always had your back", she was always someone that you could go to, someone to laugh with and talk over any important or trivial moment, that for you is gone. I feel your pain. I can remember our parents who used to lose their family and friends one by one, I used to think "how sad", BUT until one experiences it for one's self it doesn't make if "real" until you, yourself have those shoes on your feet.

There is a saying in life, "we come into this life alone and we go out of this life alone", and that is true, but somehow it rings hollow, we are not meant to live alone, we are meant to be in community, to share, to love. and to hold/hug. For right now you are feeling alone and I wish I could be there for you, just to have another human being by your side, we do not know each other, but just to have another human being to be there for you, just a physical presence, someone to listen to you, not having to say anything but just to be there. But I am going to share something with you, I have lost loved ones in my life and what you are feeling right now is "real", it is raw, it hurts, and seems like it will never change or get better. But I have also found that with time, that softens, does it ever go totally away, no, but it softens and those things that you are feel right now are real, and right now what you are experiencing is "fresh", it like a wound that does not have a scab on it, it is not healed. I have heard others say about COVID, that there is no normal right now, that what we used to think of as normal will be no more, that there may be a "new normal". I just hope and pray that the new normal does not mean that we forget the past, forget how to be there for each other, that along with some good changes that we do not forget how to love each other and be there for each other. Your reaching out and your expressiveness tells me that you care, that you want to go on but for now that seems all seems to be foreign to you.

What I want to leave you with, is that I hope and pray that you have a spiritual foundation, for me that has been my rock, my "go to", and something that can never be taken away from me. No matter what happens to me in my life, I will never be truly alone, I will have God to turn to, He is the one that is always there, and will always listen. No, I can't pick up the phone and actually talk to Him, but what I can do and can feel is HIs presence in my life, He is my true friend, my true comforter, and my source of peace. So fiesty 76, I send you my "words on this page", and want to tell you that God will always have your back. May you find peace, comfort, and hope for your tomorrow.

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@healthconscious, I sincerely appreciate your condolences, understanding of what is going on with me right now and words of encouragement. You experienced a similar closeness with your DNA sister before her death that sounds so much like the relationship my "sister-of-the-heart" and I shared.

During an earlier hospitalization, I was with my friend and her guy in the hospital daily and as a result, could hear directly from and communicate with her docs and medical team. Her second hospitalization occurred during covid and unable to visit, I, like you, had to rely on her guy's often overwhelmed and confused explanations.

As a long time primary caregiver for several family members, Kubler Ross's, five stages of grief, as well as other books on grief over the years have provided insight and help. I suppose right now I am most experiencing anger at the unnatural daily life we are all experiencing and contending with because the pandemic has irrevocably disrupted and dismantled the most basic human actions one would otherwise take. For me, the inability to be physically present with my friend and her guy has been the single hardest challenge to manage and accept.

What a lovely way to convey how grief over time, while never going away completely, does "soften" with the passage of weeks and months. Thank you for that reminder. Religious beliefs can especially provide a bedrock of comfort and while faith services and practices have radically been modified or curtailed in some instances, relying on a power greater than our own is more beneficial now than ever before.

Thank you for taking the time and empathy to share this very meaningful post. I will be re-reading yours along with the other caring responses shared here in the days ahead.

My first Mayo Connect chronic health group has provided me with so much continuing information and help. Who could have imagined the support and solace provided now by the wonderful Covid and interest group threads. What a lifeline the Connect community offers us in this time of tenuous uncertainty. Thank you.

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@lioness

@fiesty76 I wanted to send some pictures of my garbage garden beets in one onion celery surprised but glad I also put 8n a sweet potato and reg potato that was a good idea 😊

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@lioness, Isn't this garbage gardening a hoot???? Like your pics and wish I could share some photos of some of mine that have been "at it" a bit longer. Doncha' feel like a new veggie mamma watching these fragile "newbies" start to emerge????

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@lioness

@fiesty76 Anytime . It will take time for you I lost some close friends and it is hard I know but be kind to yourself and glad you and her guy are there for each other . One thing that helped me too was that I would go to his grave to talk that helped a lot . You get to say things you didn't have time to when they are alive . Might help you also .

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@lioness, Yes, Fred and I have talked about plans to do that together later. I think it will be healing for us whether we eventually continue to go together or individually. Of course that will also depend upon whether her daughter will allow some of her ashes to be placed as my friend had planned with her mom and dad. If not, we'll talk at my outdoor table or perhaps his kitchen table if he is allowed to remain in their house where so many, many visits over the years took place. You are so right, that would/does allow an opportunity to share what didn't get shared with the loved one earlier. Hadn't thought of it like that before. Thank you.

Each time I'd visit my family home and as members were added to our family plot, regardless of the primary reason for any visit, I always made it a priority to spend time at the cemetery communing with my loved ones. Those visits throughout the years brought me much comfort and consolation regardless of whatever else was going on in the family. With the completion of estate affairs for my sister, there are no others of that family group living to require a trip back to my hometown. However, I continue to talk with and remember each, dad, mom, sister, nephew throughout the year. We were a close family and their influence continues and is relied upon in my life today.

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@fiesty76

@lioness, Isn't this garbage gardening a hoot???? Like your pics and wish I could share some photos of some of mine that have been "at it" a bit longer. Doncha' feel like a new veggie mamma watching these fragile "newbies" start to emerge????

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@fiesty76 Yep do feel like a garden mama again . Since I sent the beet picture the other one is poping its head through so now I will have some vegies again like before in my own garden . On another note here yes going to the cememtary is important whether you need to get anger out or whatever . When my Dad died I was 6 but when a teenager I would go and talk to him . I still talk to his picture here and Mom it is comforting to do this . Tell Fred also too I hope she does her Mom's wishes and put her ashes where she wanted . Is she communicating now to Fred and you?

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@gingerw

@fiesty76 Alice, since there will be a chapel service, is there any way this could be put as a Zoom type broadcast? Since you mentioned your friend was a known and respected educator, there may be far-reaching persons who are not able to attend for differing reasons, whether it be COVID-19 or previous commitments. Perhaps you can contact the place it will be held, and ask?

A note to her guy in your writing may go far in comforting both of you.
Ginger

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Hi, @gingerw, I'd asked if a Zoom broadcast might be considered for the service but daughter decided against that. I am saddened that she hasn't included Fred in the final arrangements but he somehow manages to continue to walk on eggs and avoid confrontations. He must surely have accumulated a whole new spectrum/constellation of stars for his crown by now! smiles.

The daughter would not agree to having her mom's ashes placed in the family plot. Instead declared that she will carry them home with her and have them made into some type of necklace. I am beyond despair at her disregard for her mom's expressed/desired plans and wishes. At least she referenced Fred as companion in the obituary as well as the brothers, she did not include the names of their wives because she "never liked them".

I'd delivered a letter, which included some possible tribute remembrances that might be used during the service to Fred along with a batch of his favorite chocolate chip cookies and a can of his favorite reg. Coke the other day about 6am. Parked in front of a neighbor's house and posted a note on his garage window of the "pkg" left. Didn't want to alert anyone of the delivery and though he shared what I wrote with daughter and said it had "made his day", I seriously doubt any of it will be read at the service today. It was primarily intended for him and my friend knew how much she was loved by so many.

As my friend so often said: "This too shall pass" and although I cannot be there to physically support him today, we will have other times ahead to share.

Even knowing that the daughter's unreasonable behavior is a manifestation of her untreated mental illness, I know the best action for me is to avoid any and all possible contact with her. Fred and I are talking daily and he knows beyond doubt that my door and outside table are always open and available to him and little Tuffy.

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@fiesty76

Hi, @gingerw, I'd asked if a Zoom broadcast might be considered for the service but daughter decided against that. I am saddened that she hasn't included Fred in the final arrangements but he somehow manages to continue to walk on eggs and avoid confrontations. He must surely have accumulated a whole new spectrum/constellation of stars for his crown by now! smiles.

The daughter would not agree to having her mom's ashes placed in the family plot. Instead declared that she will carry them home with her and have them made into some type of necklace. I am beyond despair at her disregard for her mom's expressed/desired plans and wishes. At least she referenced Fred as companion in the obituary as well as the brothers, she did not include the names of their wives because she "never liked them".

I'd delivered a letter, which included some possible tribute remembrances that might be used during the service to Fred along with a batch of his favorite chocolate chip cookies and a can of his favorite reg. Coke the other day about 6am. Parked in front of a neighbor's house and posted a note on his garage window of the "pkg" left. Didn't want to alert anyone of the delivery and though he shared what I wrote with daughter and said it had "made his day", I seriously doubt any of it will be read at the service today. It was primarily intended for him and my friend knew how much she was loved by so many.

As my friend so often said: "This too shall pass" and although I cannot be there to physically support him today, we will have other times ahead to share.

Even knowing that the daughter's unreasonable behavior is a manifestation of her untreated mental illness, I know the best action for me is to avoid any and all possible contact with her. Fred and I are talking daily and he knows beyond doubt that my door and outside table are always open and available to him and little Tuffy.

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@fiesty76 Can you or her guy ask the daughter for a "token" amount of ashes? Surely she cannot begrudge you that? That is what we did with my father. While I had the bulk of ashes to commit to the sea, there were also a very small token amount distributed among the children, plus I left ashes at two of his onshore favorite places. As he was a Navy man, aboard the USS Enterprise in WWII, I ordered a stainless steel anchor from Perfect Memorials for each child.

You'll be in my thoughts today. You are dealing with a lot, and how blessed you and her guy are to have each other!
Ginger

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